An urban shaman living in western civilization faces a unique set of challenges. First, unlike shamans who work in tribal cultures with a long standing tradition and a deep, respectful connection to their community and their society at large, the western urban shaman is more often than not seen as either someone with a mental disorder or a charlatan out to make money by exploiting the faith of others. This last point I find exceedingly ironic, since the accepted religious leaders of the west (mostly of the Christian faith) represent the lion’s share of those exploiting the trust of others for personal profit and pleasure. From televangelists selling empty promises in exchange for opulent materialism to priests sexually abusing children, there is no shortage of exploitation going on.
Medical doctors, therapists and even armchair psychiatrists are all poised to “diagnose” the urban shaman’s spiritual experiences as one mental illness or another. If I say I interact with the spirit realms and form close relationships with spirit guides, they will tell me that is schizophrenia. Then many of those same people go to a church the next Sunday, pray to God and claim a close relationship with Jesus. They believe in angels guiding them and protecting them, and trust that God is there to smile upon their holy actions and punish those who are undeserving.
I cannot speak to the religious experiences of another. I cannot invalidate their claims because I do not “know their god”. Yet this is the struggle of a modern urban shaman in western society. To them, our spiritual experience is a mental illness. It is something we should be medicated for and endure therapy for in order to be cured. I see people on social media call upon their friends to pray for them if they become sick, or have an accident, or just need support. Very few, if any, of those people would turn to a shaman. Our spirituality is not part of the culture.